Melbourne Australia — Novak Djokovic He stepped into the stands of Rod Laver Arena to celebrate his 10th Australian Open and 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday, and after jumping up and pumping his fists with his fists, he fell on his back sobbing.
When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his side bench, buried his face in a white towel and cried some more.
This trip to Australia has been far more successful than it was a year ago – when he was deported because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 – though it’s tough in its own way: bad hamstrings; Some of the turmoil outside the court involved his father. However, Djokovic accomplished everything he could have wanted in his comeback: he resumed his winning streak at Melbourne Park and returned to the top of tennis, saying, “This is probably, as I say, the biggest victory of my life.”
Djokovic had only a brief challenge in the final, and was simply better at key moments and wins Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5). As a bonus, Djokovic will jump from fifth to number one in the ATP rankings, a place he has already held for more weeks than any other player.
said Djokovic, wearing a white zip-up jacket with a “22” mark across his chest. “And I want to thank all the people who made me feel so welcome, and made me feel comfortable, for being in Melbourne, and for being in Australia.”
The 35-year-old Serbian extended his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest there in the Open Era, which dates back to 1968. He added the No. 10 trophy to seven from Wimbledon, and three from the US Open — Where he was also absent last year due to not having a coronavirus vaccine – and two French Opens, to match his rival Rafael Nadal to most people.
Only two women – Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williamswith 23 – in front of him.
It was also the 93rd ATP Tour title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for fourth.
“I want to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.
“He is the greatest,” said Tsitsipas, “who has ever played a tennis racket.”
Djokovic was making his 33rd World Cup final, while Tsitsipas was his second – the 24-year-old Greek’s other loss, at the 2021 French Open, was to Djokovic.
On a chilly evening under an overcast sky, and with a soundtrack of cheers from fans of both men urging repeated pleas for calm from the chair umpire, Djokovic excelled throughout, especially in the tie-breakers.
Leading 4-1 at first, then grabbed the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker, and when it was over, he pointed to his temples before screaming, a precursor to all the tears.
“Very emotional for us, very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a very difficult three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”
Djokovic admitted that all the issues caused him stress.
“It took an enormous amount of mental and emotional energy, to really keep me focused,” said Djokovic.
Mind you: It’s not like Tsitsipas played all this badly, other than a rash of early fouls that seemed more like a product of stress than anything else. It’s just that Djokovic was so stubborn. Extremely accurate in his strikes, he committed 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his opponent. Very quick and fluid on the run (other than when Djokovic stumbled to his left).
“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who would also have moved into first place with his win and substitution. Carlos Alcarazwho missed the Australian Open due to a leg injury.
Maybe. However, Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes more, until the opponent is less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opportunity for Djokovic to pounce.
That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point – which was also a set point – while leading 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Could this be a fulcrum? Is Djokovic relenting? Can Tsitsipas rise?
A fifteen-run point concluded with Djokovic hitting a forehand cross that looked like a statement. This was followed by two Tsitsipas moves: a long backhand, a wide forehand. Those felt like surrender. Even when Tsitsipas broke in the third game, Djokovic broke right back.
More than a forehand or backhand has been on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.
There was a not so small matter in last year’s legal saga – he admitted the whole thing was a form of stimulus but also said the other day, ‘I’m over it’ – and a curiosity about the kind of reception he would get when he was allowed into Australia Because the pandemic restrictions have been eased.
He heard plenty of vocal support but also dealt with some constant harassment during the competition, including applause after fouls on Sunday.
There was sore left hamstring that was badly joined for every match – until the final, that is, when only one piece of beige athletic tape was visible.
Then there was the matter of his father, Srdjan, being photographed with a group waving Russian flags – one with a picture of Vladimir Putin – after Djokovic’s quarter-finals. The tournament banned fans from carrying the flags of Russia or Belarus, saying it would lead to disruption due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Novak Djokovic and his father said that Srdjan believed he was with the Serbian fans.
However, Srdjan Djokovic did not bring his son to the semifinals or finals.
“We both agreed, maybe it’s better if he’s not there,” said the younger Djokovic, who caught up with Abi for a hug after Sunday’s game.
Regardless of all that, Djokovic excelled – as he often does.
“It’s been a long journey, but a very special one,” he said.